Expert discussion

A panel discussion is a live or virtual discussion about a specific topic amongst a selected group of panellists, who share differing perspectives, in front of a large audience. It is often employed  in a meeting, conference or convention. The panel is typically facilitated by a “moderator” who guides the panel and the audience through the event. The panel, typically 3-4 experts or practitioners in the field, shares facts, opinions and responds to audience questions either through questions curated by the moderator or taken from the audience directly. The moderator’s task is to organize effective and result oriented discussion on topic questions. The panel session typically lasts for 60-90 minutes.

Basic Information on the Method
Mode of communication
Face-to-face, Online, Both
Group size
Geographical scale
Public space, Neighbourhood, City, Region
Skills required
Average, Advanced
Resources needed
Level of Involvement
Level of involvement
Type of knowledge enabled
Divergence (Small groups)
Additional Criteria
Planning phase
Initiatiion, Evaluation & Research
Methodological approach
Organisational, Political

How to use the method

  1. Decide, what topic do you want to discuss and who is able (and willing) to share opinions on it. The number of panelists is usually 4-5. Panelists should possess substantial knowledge about the subject and be good in giving public talks. Note, that panel discussion aims to provide rich and multifaceted information on the topic, therefore panelists should represent diverse (and divergent) views on the subject.
  2. Prepare materials and questions for the discussion. It is helpful to give a brief introductory (video) presentation about the topic before to the discussion. Discussion questions should be open-ended and encouraging panelists to share their opinions and experiences. The length of the panel discussion from 60 to 90 minutes. Reserve at least 15 min per question, 4-6 questions in total.
  3. Decide upon the format of the discussion. Is it a video discussion, which is streamed online (e.g. on Facebook or in Zoom) or is it a live discussion? Depending on the format, secure a suitable place, either a video conference room or an auditorium.
  4. Find the skilled moderator, discuss with him/her the panelists and the questions.
  5. Contact prospective panelists and discuss with them suitable time and location of the discussion, and, also, discussion questions. Prepare a short bio of each panelist to introduce him/her.
  6. Advertise the panel discussion in the media.
  7. Use help of the assistant to take questions form the audience. If the discussion is online, then the questions can be asked by a phone call, message, comments (on Facebook) or Q&A section (in Zoom). If the discussion is live, 1 or two microphones for the audience members are needed. Alternatively, you can use interactive questionnaire tools such as Slido or Mentimeter.
  8. Publish a video recording of a conference or/and a written summary in the media.

What are the outcomes

After the discussion you will have a set of multiple views on the topic in focus.

Skills required

Skills required from participants - Advanced

  • The panelists should be experts on the subject, be good in giving public talks, and preferably hold diverse views on the topic,

Resources needed

Resources - Low

  • Video conferencing room or an auditorium with the appropriate equipment
  • Interactive questionnaire tools such as Slido or Mentimeter (optional)
  • A skilled moderator
  • Time to prepare questions and panelist list, contact panelists, make advertisement and press release

Strengths and weaknesses

  • An efficient tool to gather rich and diverse views on the topic form the experts
  • Contributes into shaping public opinion on the topic
  • Good panelists are usually busy and have to be booked 1-2 months in advance (domestic) or 3-6 months in advance (international)
  • The discussion depends very much on the skills of the moderator and the readiness of the panelists to share openly their views, especially, on sensitive topics

Use cases

Discussion about the location of the National Concert Hall - Riga, Latvia, 2019

National Concert Hall in Riga, Latvia, is a long-lasting topic for the heated discussions among politicians and urban professionals. The question is whether Riga needs a big concert hall? If it does, then where should it be located, who and how is going to design it? In the framework of the international planning forum “MadCity 2019” the information portal Satori has organised a panel discussion with prominent architects and art curators. The expert expressed their opinions on the topic, providing an ample material for consideration (Satori, 2019).

Try one of these tools & resources

  1. Satori (2019) “Satori” diskusija: Nacionala koncertzāle uz AB dambja: par un pret. Avalable at: